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Information Literacy Resources

Guide for faculty

Outcome 1.4.1

Design a research plan that:

     a. Incorporates a clear research question;

     b. Identifies appropriate information resources;

This outcome has the student looking to the future- explaining through the research question what they want to know, and mapping out a research plan for where and how they intend to look for information resources. 

Research Questions should be:

  • Clear: the audience can understand the purpose without needing more explanation
  • Focused: the topic is narrow enough to be answered thoroughly in the space the task allows
  • Complex:  not answerable with a simple yes or no- requires synthesis and analysis of ideas
  • Arguable:  potential answers are open to debate rather than accepted facts


Fracking This is not a question, but a simple topic. It has no focus.

Does fracking impact the environment? This is a question but can be easily answered with a yes or no.

What is the environmental impact of fracking? This is a complex question, but only asks for a report of fact, it does not ask for a deeper analysis.

What are some of the most effective ways of protecting local groundwater from the wastewater produced by fracking? This complex question is narrow enough for a paper or presentation, asks for analysis and synthesis, and "most effective" invites debate over the best methods to use.

Please note that a research question and a thesis are NOT the same thing. A thesis is a proposed answer to a research question.

Example Research Question Rubric from UNIV 301




Not Proficient Developing Proficiency Proficient Exceeding Proficiency

Design a research plan that (a) incorporates a clear research question.

No clear, arguable research question. Has a research question, but it is too broad or too narrow for the assignment/information need, or is poorly worded. The question does not generate argument or is easily answered without scholarly research. The research question is specific, neither too broad nor too narrow for the assignment/information need, and is clearly worded.  The question generates arguments and cannot be answered without scholarly research The research question that is focused, clear, and well stated. The question generates rich argument and deep scholarly research.

If inspired by this rubric, please acknowledge the work done by Forsyth Library for the UNIV 301 Information Literacy course in your documentation. 

Teaching Resources for the Research Question